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Putin at Chirac service as France seeks closer ties with Russia

Russian President Vladimir Putin was set Monday to be the highest-profile foreign leader at a tribute to late French head of state Jacques Chirac, as Paris seeks to improve relations with Moscow.

Putin once described Chirac as the world leader he most admired and hailed him as a “wise and far-sighted statesman” following his death last week.

Ties between Moscow and Paris — and Europe in general — have however become increasingly strained over the years since Chirac left the Elysee in 2007.

Russian President Vladimir Putin was set Monday to be the highest-profile foreign leader at a tribute to late French head of state Jacques Chirac, as Paris seeks to improve relations with Moscow.

Putin once described Chirac as the world leader he most admired and hailed him as a “wise and far-sighted statesman” following his death last week.

Ties between Moscow and Paris — and Europe in general — have however become increasingly strained over the years since Chirac left the Elysee in 2007.
 adding that the “time has come” to ease Russia tensions.
 
Macron meanwhile no longer highlights Russia’s annexation of Crimea in 2014, which led to ongoing sanctions from the European Union and United States.

“The setting of the tribute to Jacques Chirac is not conducive to a work meeting, but in this context, (a visit) is always a good thing,” said Igor Delanoe, deputy director of the Franco-Russian Observatory in Moscow.

He said times had changed since Putin and Chirac worked together in the early 2000s.

The pair particularly bonded over their opposition to the US-led war in Iraq in 2003.

“The axis of Berlin, Paris and Moscow was something very strong,” Delanoe said.

At the time, Putin was a relative newcomer to global affairs — having been propelled to power in 1999 by his predecessor Boris Yeltsin — while Chirac was already an experienced figure.

In a sign of their good relationship, Putin in 2004 invited his French counterpart to secret military facilities near Moscow, a rare honour for a foreign leader.

Chirac was also a Russophile, who prided himself on having translated poems by Alexander Pushkin in his youth.

In 2006, Chirac awarded Putin France’s top state award, the Legion of Honour.
Relations have cooled since, but now the French president appears to be spearheading a drive to improve Russia’s ties with Europe.

Analysts say that as the current head of the G7 and Council of Europe, and with Germany and Britain focused on internal politics, the French president sees an opportunity.

After a private service for his family at the Invalides complex in central Paris, Chirac’s coffin will be driven under military escort through the streets of the capital to Saint-Sulpice church for a final memorial.

The Elysee said some 30 heads of state and government are expected to be present, including Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban and German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier.

Former leaders who worked closely with Chirac, notably including German ex-chancellor Gerhard Schroeder, will be there. European Union Commission chief Jean-Claude Juncker and former US President Bill Clinton will also attend.
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